Morning Brew - ☕️ Hitting undo

The most expensive shareholder battle ever is over...
April 04, 2024 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew

AT&T In-car Wi-Fi

Good morning. Some personal news: Coffee prices hit an all-time high. Robusta futures jumped 3.8% on Wednesday to a record $3,800 a tonne, bringing their 12-month gain to 68%. At this rate, the espresso is going to cost more than the martini.

—Matty Merritt, Cassandra Cassidy, Molly Liebergall, Abby Rubenstein, Neal Freyman

MARKETS

Nasdaq

16,277.46

S&P

5,211.49

Dow

39,127.14

10-Year

4.355%

Bitcoin

$65,964.00

Ulta

$439.98

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 3:00am ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: Stocks continued their second-quarter slump, with the Dow notching its third down day in a row. Ulta Beauty plunged like a wand being dipped into mascara after its CEO revealed that, despite the resilience of the beauty category, sales have slowed.
 

ENTERTAINMENT

Disney and Bob Iger fended off the activists

Chief executive officer and chairman of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger and Mickey Mouse look on before ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), November 27, 2017 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Disney’s current rulers will continue to oversee the kingdom. The company’s board, helmed by CEO Bob Iger, defeated activist investors who had hoped to replace current board members and steer the company in a new direction.

In case you weren’t following the most expensive board seat battle ever...two groups of activist investors were aiming to convince shareholders to vote their preferred candidates onto the board. Blackwells Capital led one. But the more fearsome threat came from Nelson Peltz, the 81-year-old billionaire and founder of Trian Fund Management, who has tried to snag a Disney board seat before.

  • Peltz, whose firm owns 1.76% of Disney’s shares (about $3.5 billion worth of stock), campaigned for two board seats—one for himself and the other for former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo. He criticized Iger for his botched succession planning, the company’s falling share price, and Disney+.
  • Iger and Disney staunchly opposed Peltz and his pick joining the board.

Both sides enlisted powerful allies: Former Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter and Elon Musk voiced their support for Peltz. Meanwhile, Disney secured support from Star Wars creator George Lucas and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

But yesterday, Peltz received just 31% of shareholder votes.

Many votes to keep the board as-is came from retail investors, who have outsize power at Disney because of the sheer number of them. Nearly 75% of individual investors voted for Disney’s board picks—which makes sense since Disney spent almost $40 million on campaigns to sway them to do just that. Disney even sent mailers with characters like Elsa and Anna urging shareholders to vote its way.

Disney may still need some magic. The proxy war might be over, but some concerns raised by the activist investors linger. Iger retired from the CEO role in 2020, but Disney brought him back in November 2022, and he doesn’t have a replacement ready. Disney+ still isn’t profitable and isn’t expected to be until the end of the year, and the company just released the first look for a live-action Lion King prequel with…more CGI lions.—MM

   

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She shoots, she—

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WORLD

Tour de headlines

The spotify logo on a phone Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Spotify plans to raise prices. We regret to inform you that the platform where you listen to music and podcasts is reportedly gearing up to raise prices, in part to help offset its costly push into audiobooks. Spotify will begin charging $1 to $2 more in the UK, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Ghana this month and then hike prices in the US later in the year, per the Wall Street Journal. The company is testing how much it can squeeze out of listeners as it tries to get back on track after losses that prompted layoffs.

Americans believe they need $1.46 million to retire in style. The new magic number for retirement, found in a study by Northwestern Mutual, is 15% higher than what people thought they needed last year—and 53% higher than the amount people in 2020 pictured themselves needing to feel comfortable leaving the workforce to sit on a beach in Florida. It’s also more than most people have socked away: On average, US adults have $88,400 saved for retirement.

Paramount may have found its buyer. Paramount Global’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, who has been looking to unload the entertainment giant, has a tentative agreement to sell her stake to Skydance Media, according to Bloomberg. Paramount Global’s board has entered exclusive talks with Skydance, shunning a competing offer from Apollo Global Management to buy the debt-laden company for $26 billion and agreeing not to talk to other suitors for 30 days, per the WSJ.

FOOD

It’s a bad time to be a hen

Photo of eggs Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

The bird flu, which seems to reemerge as soon as you forget about it, is back.

Cal-Maine, the largest egg producer in the US, halted all operations at a Texas facility earlier this week and culled nearly 4% of its flock, including 1.6 million hens, after detecting the bird flu. The virus, carried by migrating waterfowl, is spreading rapidly around the country, hitting Texas especially hard. And it’s not just affecting birds:

  • The virus has transferred over to cattle. It’s been reported in seven Texas dairy herds and appears to spread from cow to cow.
  • One person in the state who had contact with cows contracted the virus. Their only symptom was pink eye, according to the state health department. The threat to humans is low, per the CDC.

Egg prices may not be safe…Cal-Maine accounts for 20% of the egg market, and the production halt could drive up prices. Following a bird flu outbreak in 2022, the cost of a dozen eggs hit a record $4.82 in January 2023.

But your daily glass of milk is fine. Cows recover from the sickness, and the USDA doesn’t have any concerns about the safety of milk, since pasteurization kills the virus.—CC

   

TOGETHER WITH JOBSOHIO

JobsOhio

Here’s what you didn’t know about Ohio. For starters, the Ohio buckeye is a type of tree. So when you move your business there, you’ll see a lot of them. JobsOhio can make your biz transition easy—they’re a private nonprofit, so you can expect less red tape and more confidentiality. Choose Ohio.

TECH

Amazon hits undo on cashierless checkouts

Will Smith saying ‘you know what? nevermind, man’ The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air/NBC via Giphy

After struggling to get shoppers on board with an innovation that was promised to revolutionize how you pay for groceries, Amazon is done trying to reinvent the wheel self-checkout for now.

The tech giant is pulling its cashierless “Just Walk Out” checkout system from Amazon Fresh stores in the US and leaning into its scanner-equipped Dash Carts instead. Like E-ZPass for milk and eggs, Just Walk Out uses overhead cameras and shelf sensors to track customers’ baskets and charge them once they leave the store.

Why ditch it? The extremely contactless tech is time-consuming and expensive to install, can get thrown off by customers putting items back on the wrong shelves, and takes minutes to hours to send patrons their digital receipts. That’s largely because Just Walk Out still required ~700 human checks per 1,000 sales as of 2022—far above Amazon’s internal goal of 20 to 50 per 1,000 sales, according to The Information.

Shoppers can still Just Walk Out of US Amazon Go locations, smaller UK Amazon Fresh stores, and some licensed airport stores and stadium concession stands.

Zoom out: Amazon’s physical store business hasn’t been a blockbuster. In Q4 2023 its revenue was only up 14% compared with the first full quarter after Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 and only accounted for 3.4% of the company’s business.—ML

   

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

Runners cross the Verrazano Bridge before competing in the Men's division during the New York City Marathon KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

Stat: New York City is not playing around with its move toward congestion pricing: Now, it even wants people who run into the city to pay tolls. Well, not most of the time, but the New York Times reports that the city’s transportation agency has demanded $750,000 from the organization that puts on the NYC Marathon to cover lost toll revenue for the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, where runners start the race. The agency has threatened to allow runners to use only one level of the bridge—which would certainly cause a traffic jam, since 50,000+ marathoners are expected in November.

Quote: “I didn’t want anything to be basic.”

College can no longer contain Angel Reese, who will be moving on to the WNBA from March Madness, where her final LSU season just ended with a loss to Iowa. As befits a star like Bayou Barbie, she made the announcement with a Vogue fashion shoot à la Serena Williams. “Of course, I like to do everything big,” she told the magazine. Noting that she’d already clinched a national championship and been All-American, Reese said she was ready for the next level, explaining, “My ultimate goal is to be a pro—and to be one of the greatest basketball players to play, ever.”

Read: As obesity rises, Big Food and dietitians push “anti-diet” advice. (Washington Post)

NEWS

What else is brewing

  • José Andrés is speaking out after an Israeli strike killed seven aid workers from his World Central Kitchen charity who were delivering food in Gaza.
  • Ukraine lowered its military draft age from 27 to 25, a controversial move as the country tries to bulk up its troops to fight Russia’s invasion.
  • Intel revealed that its semiconductor-making unit lost $7 billion last year. The news sent the company’s stock down.
  • Amazon is laying off hundreds of employees from its cloud computing division, including the team overseeing its cashierless tech (and not just the Just Walk Out feature it’s pulling from stores), as well as people sales and marketing roles.
  • Microsoft and Quantinuum said they’ve had a major quantum computing breakthrough.

RECS

To do list Thursday

Get lunch for less: Here are the restaurants with deals for National Burrito Day today.

Prepare: Check out the best ways to watch the eclipse without damaging your eyes and a list of reputable suppliers for glasses.

Feel old: Listen to the songs Mozart composed when he was five.

Learn: How going deep on aviation disasters helped cure a fear of flying.

Get closer to financial freedom: Money with Katie is hosting a FREE live workshop about how to reach financial independence. Spots are limited, so reserve yours now.

Adventure awaits: Get a $200 Delta gift card just for taking a BILL Spend & Expense demo. See how BILL can help your biz automate expense reports + more.*

*A message from our sponsor.

GAMES

The puzzle section

Brew Mini: The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is this weekend, and even if you’re not going, you can get in the spirit by playing today’s delightful Mini.

Three Headlines and a Lie

Three of these headlines are real and one is faker than making a 15-minute connection in ATL. Can you spot the odd one out?

  1. Officials have a plan to end years of monkey mayhem in a central Thai city
  2. Sticks. And the people who love them.
  3. Man pleads guilty to theft of solid gold toilet worth $6 million from Blenheim Palace
  4. Meet the team fighting to bring baseball caps into wedding fashion

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ANSWER

We made up the one about wedding fashion.

Word of the Day

Today’s Word of the Day is: mayhem, meaning “violent disorder or chaos.” Thanks to Rick Stel from Wisconsin for helping us keep this section in order with the suggestion. Submit another Word of the Day here.

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